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Breech Babies Still Delivered Vaginally Despite Risks

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Mary Wolff3 years ago

According to Reuters Health, a new study conducted in the Netherlands shows that many babies in the breech position are being delivered vaginally instead of the safer option of cesarean sections.

Fortunately the number of breech babies being born vaginally has decreased in the last 15 years due to studies showing the success of cesarean sections at reducing the risk of babies dying.  However, since 2007 an alarming number of mothers choose to continue with a vaginal birth with a baby in the breech position, despite the high risk to the baby.

Dealing with Breech Births

In a typical vaginal birth, the baby turns and faces head-down in the pelvis, without any help. The head is the largest part of a baby and it makes labor easier and safer for the largest part to come through the birth canal first. This avoids the shoulders getting hung up on the pelvic area or the head becoming stuck.

Babies in the breech position do not turn toward the birth canal on their own and may emerge feet first, instead of the preferable head first. This can present life threatening challenges for the baby.

Though there are some medical techniques and efforts to attempt to help the baby turn the right way, but they are not always effective.  

Doctor Knows Best

Women are typically encouraged to have a cesarean section performed when the baby is presented as breech, but many women, almost 40 percent according to the study, choose a vaginal birth in spite of the possible danger.

It is important to note that performing a cesarean section on every mother with a breech baby may not be a sensible solution and really depends on the individual woman and situation. Despite what a healthcare professional may suggest, the mother still has the option to choose a vaginal birth or a cesarean section.

Doctors are still conducting further research on this important issue to try to find new ways to prevent breech births and why women are choosing certain birthing routes over others. These studies are also trying to show that most babies born breech may have higher instances of survival if the birth is handled in a hospital setting, as opposed to an at-home birth with a mid-wife. 

The study is not suggesting a woman should not have the option of an at-home birth. It is simply reiterating the importance of having the capable resources to handle a breech birth if it becomes dangerous for the mother or child.

Breech Birth Stats

Information provided by Reuters Health and related to a study completed in the Netherlands.

  • Breech babies born vaginally had a 33 percent higher risk of death or injury compared to those born by C-section.
  • Out of 1.4 million deliveries included in the study, nearly 60,000 were breech deliveries.
  • In 1999, 24 percent of women with babies in a breech position planned in advance to have a C-section, which rose to 60 percent in 2007.
  • In the group that had already planned C-sections, fewer babies died during birth or within the first 28 days of life as time went on.
  • For every 338 C-sections, one newborn death was prevented, according to the analysis in the medical journal Acta Obstetrica et Gynecologica Scandinavica.
  • Among women who still planned to try for a vaginal delivery, emergency C-section rates increased, from 34 percent to 45 percent.


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